You have been tasked with developing an office intranet for an important client. How do you go about selecting the right intranet development option to meet the customer’s needs, at the right price and with minimum risk to your web development agency?
Any of you who have attempted to develop a bespoke intranet will appreciate what a long and difficult process it can be, often with no guarantees at the end. In this article, we examine the option of pre-built CMS intranet systems as a viable proposition for your customers. In fact, this option has much to offer both you as the developer and your client. CMS intranets are capable of being customized to meet the business requirements of the majority of companies. The pre-built framework means that all the development and testing is already completed and proven. And outsourced cloud hosting offers a range of additional benefits to customers particularly in relation to security, speed and dependability. Interested? Read on to find out how a CMS intranet can make the task of intranet development much easier for you.
The process a web development agency goes through to develop an intranet for a customer typically involves a number of steps. These steps include the following:
The first step is to gather detailed information from the client on their requirements and to undertake a needs analysis. What does the client want their intranet to achieve? What key features and business tools are relevant to this organization? What are the baseline requirements in terms of data and information?
Often the impetus for an intranet is a particular pain point or issue that the business is facing and is seeking to resolve. It could be poor internal communications, a need for faster and easier information and data sharing, opportunities to increase productivity with more streamlined processes or it may be problems with departmental information silos. The needs and the solution will vary from company to company and so it’s vital that you have a firm handle on what’s driving the need for an intranet. This step may well involve conducting focus groups, staff questionnaires or workshops and it will take time to complete.
Once the requirements gathering and needs analysis phase is completed it’s time to move on to the next step which involves sketching the information architecture for the intranet site. As well as detailing the main topics for the site along with any subtopics, all the business processes, information and data flow diagrams, this step also involves creating an initial sitemap, thumbnails, outlines and a table of contents.
Next is the overall look and feel of the site. The client will no doubt have views about the design of the site and so you will need to work closely with the customer on this stage which will involve a significant investment of time.
During this stage, the page grid, page design and overall graphic elements are created and agreed along with the interface design and all illustrations and photography.
Developing a prototype is the next step in the process. This enables the client to get a good general feel for what the end product will look like and how the information will be delivered. From the perspective of the web development agency, the prototype enables you to affirm that the intranet meets the goals of the organization and is fit for purpose. It also provides an opportunity to test the site navigation and develop the user interface.
The final step in the intranet development process is testing. The complete intranet software will need to be extensively tested for the following:
- Ease of use
- Ongoing management
- Mobile optimization
- Appeal to end users.
As well as confirming that the intranet is fully functional, you will also want to ensure that it meets the needs of end users. This includes visual appeal, ease of use and achieving the overall objectives of the intranet. As such it’s important that the testing phase is completed by people not directly involved in the development – this could be internal colleagues or a sample of users from with the customer’s business. Either way, the testers need to report back on any issues such as programming bugs, broken site links or online forms and typographical or proofreading errors. In addition, they should be willing and able to provide feedback on the overall design and effectiveness of the intranet site.
This whole intranet development process is time and labor intensive and, therefore, requires a significant investment from both you and the client. Not all companies are willing to make that investment. In addition, there is inherent risk involved for the web development agency. Even after thoroughly going through this entire process, there are no guarantees that the client will proceed.
By comparison, the hosted CMS intranet offers a much less risky option for web development agencies. Moreover, for the client, it has the advantage of being a quicker and simpler process. It takes MyHub customers, for example, on average three days to launch their intranet. And given that for most companies the impetus behind an intranet is often an identified pain point, being able to quickly respond and resolve that issue with a fully functioning intranet will be of great interest to clients.
In fact, a CMS intranet offers a streamlined and more cost-effective development process for consultants and clients. To demonstrate this, we examine below how the intranet development process would work with a CMS intranet.
CMS Intranet Development
Rather than starting from a blank piece of paper as we did previously, the starting point this time is the extensive range of functions and features already within the CMS intranet software. It could be news feeds and blogs, document management and sharing systems, automated business processes and online forms, or it might be a corporate calendar, online employee directory, project or team collaboration spaces or even a social intranet. The truth is these features and functions have been developed in response to a broad range of organizations and business needs. Whatever the pain point driving intranet adoption is, the features and tools that have been developed will appeal to the majority of businesses. This approach also has the advantage of framing the client’s expectations upfront about what is achievable. In addition, it will reduce the web development agency’s exposure to risk apparent in bespoke intranets. It’s then a relatively easy task to match the functionality against the organization’s needs.
The template approach offered by CMS intranets eliminates the need for spending large amounts of time on developing extensive content architecture. A basic sitemap and navigation already exists with a set of powerful modules that can be easily customized to reflect the customer’s specific needs or identity with corporate colors, company fonts and logos. What’s more, the real beauty of the pre-built intranet page template is that it’s a simple process to add or edit pages and modules which reduces the need for extensive pre-planning. It’s also empowering for the client because they can change things around and modify the site in the light of shifting business requirements. And the drag and drop functionality means that they won’t need to have a PhD in computing to do so!
CMS intranet templates already come with flexible page layout and design options that reflect the latest best practice and industry standards. With the intranet template module, it’s easy to add and edit text as well as images, graphics, videos and files. And the ability to customize the design means that even though you may be utilizing the same intranet template, the end product for your customers will be unique to their business and brand.
Taking all the hard work out of the design stage of the process, means that you have more time to spend on ensuring the intranet really addresses the pain points your customer is seeking to address with the intranet deployment.
The development stage is curtailed with a free trial, shared screen tour or no-obligation demonstration. Most CMS intranet providers will allow customers to test drive the product before committing themselves. There’s no intranet software to install or learning curve involved. The powerful intranet templates already come with basic navigation and site graphics and the simple step-by-step builder process with flexible design and page options enables clients to very quickly go live with a customized intranet within a matter of days. What’s more, the template model means that it’s easy to maintain a consistent look and feel as well as a coherent and intuitive navigational system throughout the whole site.
All the pre-testing has been done with a CMS intranet so that the web consultant and customer can be assured of functionality. In fact, the CMS intranet templates are constantly being tweaked, developed and updated in the light of the real experiences of thousands of users. In addition, the design has already been optimized for the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets so the customer can be assured of mobile functionality.
This pre-testing not only saves a significant amount of time in the whole intranet development process, it also saves a significant amount of money. As the web consultant you can, therefore, provide intranet development services at a much more competitive rate than others in the field.
In addition, the pre-built framework is more cost-effective as there are no setup or ongoing management and maintenance costs either. All of this is covered in a fixed monthly fee which enables you to more accurately and confidently provide costings to customers. What’s more, CMS intranets have proven high availability and uptime as well as high CPU speeds. The MyHub intranet, for example, typically has 99.9 percent availability and uptime.
Moreover, it’s a much easier sell for consultants when there are users already utilizing the product who can verify that it not only does the job, but that it does the job extremely well.
The option of cloud-hosted intranets offers a number of extra welcome benefits for your customers. Rather than purchasing additional servers and hosting and maintaining the intranet themselves, customers can outsource it to a hosting company. The benefits include:
- Up-to-date security features
- Fixed monthly costs
- Unlimited users
- Automatic updates and backups.
It may be then that configuration rather than development is the way to go for the majority of your customers. CMS intranets offer none of the unknowns of bespoke intranets, and therefore provides a better return on investment for customers and less risk to the consultant.
From the perspective of the consultant, this means that you can be more focused on understanding and delivering against the customer’s requirements. Positioning your agency as being responsive and able to deliver will give you a competitive edge over other agencies who may be more focused on maximizing the hours billed and revenue raised from intranet development. And the intuitive, easy to follow set up and ongoing management of the CMS intranet template means that intranet deployment is a much faster process. Clients can be up and running and realizing the benefits in just a few days rather than several weeks.
CMS intranets can, therefore, simultaneously meet the needs of customers and your web development agency. Contact us at MyHub for a free demonstration or no-obligation 14-day trial period and discover for yourself how CMS intranet templates can make intranet development a much easier task.